IoT Podcast Logo

In episode 22, we connect with Hima Mukkamala, CEO at Pelion to discover how IoT has advanced toward daily life and what this means for the future!🛸

Previously incubated within Arm, Pelion is now an independent company operating as an IoT Platform Service provider to support the acceleration of IoT innovation to help customers transform their sector through IoT enabled use-cases.

We start off the episode, exploring Pelion’s breakaway from Arm as an independent company now operating as an IoT Platform service, and the challenges that came with transferring from a platform to a company. Swiftly, we move towards the much-deliberated case of IoT evolution and how IoT is becoming ever more ingrained in everyday life, showcasing emerging use-case examples like sensor embedded labels to track assets.

 

  • How did you get into IoT? 00:53- 02:40
  • How is Pelion now operating as its own independent business from ARM? What does this mean for customers? 02:40-05:03
  • What were the biggest challenges transitioning from a platform to a company? 05:03-09:19
  • How has IoT evolved closer to everyday life? 09:19-11:52
  • What are the most transformative use-cases that are evolving? Case study: Real-Time Tracking Labels 11:52-15:10
  • How can IoT device management be simplified? 15:10-18:28
  • Why is trustable data crucial to implement by design? 18:28-21:10
  • What challenges do you envision IoT will have as it grows? 21:10-25:27
  • What are your predictions for the future of IoT? 25:27-31:27

Episode Transcript

Tom White:
Welcome to The IoT Podcast show. I’m your host, Tom White. And today I’m joined by none other than Hima Mukkamala from Pelion. Hima is the CEO of Pelion, a business that was previously incubated within ARM, and is now its own company. To support the acceleration in the IoT innovation, Pelion looks to help customers transform their sector through a lot of different IoT enabled use cases. Hima, welcome to the show.

Hima Mukkamala:
Tom, thanks for having me here. I’m excited to have this conversation looking forward to it.

How did you get into the world of IoT

Tom White:
Fantastic. As are we, as are we Hima. Hima just to start, how did he get into IoT and into this world? It’s a really interesting question for our listeners.

Hima Mukkamala:
Yeah, it’s an interesting, I guess point for me because my old journey started with being a mobile platform developer, before the mobile phones were there. And then when I was in 2012, I think I was thinking about okay, what’s going to happen next? And that’s when the notion of industrial IoT was starting to come up. I don’t know if you remember 2012, when the name was first being coined. And so I went to GE and I built the first industrial IoT platform called Predix. And so that’s where my IoT journey got started, because I knew that the journey in technology was going to go from mobile phones and to IoT next. And so building the first industrial IoT platform. And then as I was looking at it, I thought about where is this journey going to go next? And that’s when I knew devices and that’s how I ended up at ARM because it, was not a linear path from an industrial company to a company like ARM.

How is Pelion operating as an independent company?

Tom White:
Yeah, yeah. No, I can imagine. And it’s interesting that you’d been in it for that time, right? I mean, when people talk about IoT and they talk about machine to machine and the difference between it, some people have come from this industrial background and others have sort of segwayed into the industry from varying other industries. Myself, I was very much involved in the set-top box industry, many years ago and did a lot of work within that. And you can’t really get much more connected to the set-up box, right? So, that was my entry point to IoT. Clearly, it’s a really exciting time for Pelion at the moment. You clearly reached a milestone as an independent company very recently. I’m interested to know some insights really about how Pelion is now operating as its own independent business, from ARM and the decision to do that.

Hima Mukkamala:
Yeah, when I started around three years ago, three and a half years ago. The journey was because I felt like IoT is all about the devices. So within ARM, it felt like a very good place to incubate the business over three years, ran the business as part of… We launched the product, we got commercial intensity going and then made some acquisitions on the way to grow the technology sort of offering together. But as we looked at this future for us as a company, future for IoT, it felt like the right intersection from a technology and a growth standpoint. So, whenever someone asks me, why now? This launching ourselves as a separate company? I give three reasons primarily. I think it allows us to focus more because ARM is a bigger company and the charter they have in IoT is much larger than what we are doing now, focusing on collecting and managing devices.

So that’s one big reason which enables us to accelerate what we need to do better. The second reason is it helps us give more focus and flexibility across devices, clouds and networks. Because one of the biggest challenges is that, right? There’s flexibility of device, network and cloud. And this helps us do that. And then finally, as a smaller leaner organization, we can be super obsessed about customers and satisfying customers and respond to their requirements much better. And so that’s been the main pivotal reasons transitioning to being an independent company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of ARM. We get the benefits of ARM, they are our financial backers, ARM is doing really well. The number of devices that have ARM nodes, ARM sensors in them is growing crazy. So, overall as I think about it, it’s good for both sides of the coin.

What were the biggest challenges transitioning from a platform to a company?

Tom White:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the evolution has been huge, hasn’t it? In terms of moving from a platform to an independent business. I would imagine that it’s a lot of challenges in doing that right? Taking it from something within ARM to its own independent business. What were the biggest challenges you had doing that Hima?

Hima Mukkamala:
Yeah, it’s always a challenge being part of a larger company, working with customers in one way and then transitioning ourselves into a smaller company and being under the umbrella, right? My biggest worry was going into the transition starting October, how will our customers and partners sort of continue to support us because they’re used to dealing with ARM as a company and Pelion as a business, as part of ARM. Now they’re dealing with Pelion as a company, right? And the most surprising part of it was, the support we got from them was incredible. Note the trust they had in us before, just grew as we went through this transition, especially the strength and enterprise customers, because that was the segment I was worried about, how would they respond to this change, us becoming an independent company.

And I was so happy to see their continued strength. The other challenge that I was really worried about is for us as employees of the company, it’s always hard to go through that separation. It felt like a family, we’re still part of the family, but the team, when I say the team, the Pelion team, through the pandemic, through the transition, they stepped up big time. And so it actually, our business, grew during the transition. We continue to execute to our customer’s requirements. So, overall I was surprise, it was a good surprise that we managed to grow the business and continue to get customers.

How is Pelion shaping the IoT market?

Tom White:
Yeah, no, it’s fantastic. I think obviously the reputation was there as a business unit. And I think with the backing of ARM and being able to be its own independent entity, it’s a real proving point of the commitment to ARM within IoT, but equally it has showed the success that the business unit had. And clearly your customers would be interested in following suit and coming on this journey that Pelion is going on, because it’s quite an immense journey, isn’t it? Just touching on that as well. I mean, expectations for the business are huge, aren’t they?

Hima Mukkamala:
Even as we were part of ARM, as a business unit of ARM, the expectations were there. And the launch we did, around two years back, the partnerships we are built up on, there is that expectation that have been built up. But I think thankfully to the customers and partners, we’ve been able to manage to those expectations and being part of a SoftBank family and the growth that’s expected.

So it’s been a good journey coming off the kickoff and all the last two years growing the business year, over year, especially in the areas we wanted to focus on. And so, I think the market has had its challenges, but we know with our focus and our ability, we’ve been able to take the lessons learned from the first two years and apply them. And so, we’ve seen the increase and it’s interesting because COVID actually made our business better, because of COVID, there was a lot more of remote management of device needs because people wanted to reduce the human interaction. And so, the last one year we’ve seen more use cases coming to production and real utilization of IoT technology. Previously, it was a lot of conversation about using IoT, but now we are seeing real use cases. For the last two years, the combination of technology maturing, the organization has matured a lot. And then the market is in the right condition for real use cases and the momentum has been built.

Tom White:
Yeah. I mean that’s a fantastic story, isn’t it? And I think the pandemic has been a really devastating event for so, so many people, but there are small silver linings, if you can call them that within this. And I think one of them is more and more use cases of IoT and we’ve had people on the show and that we’ve spoken to that are doing such amazing things. When it comes to proximity detection for social distancing, the transportation of goods, services, products. You’ve only got to look at the vaccine and certain vaccines have to be stored at certain temperatures. And that’s all led by sensors and being able to check that the temperature is at that level. And if there’s some issue, then the interventions are there quickly. And it’s really fantastic that IoT can help, a lot of these situations. Sorry, go on Hima.

What use IoT use cases are you seeing emerge?

Hima Mukkamala:
No, I was just going to add a use case that we saw in the building management, because in the past, when you manage the air quality and temperature in the large buildings, commercial or residential, our customers would take their gateways, put them, connect to the local wifi. That would take a week or so, you would have to talk to a lot of local IT operators in the building, and so on. After COVID, we’ve seen the need to do this off the shelf, we just want to put the gateway power it on, talks to a cellular network and you get connectivity immediately. That’s one more use case, which you have seen because, we’re trying to reduce the human interaction and make devices more active, get air quality information, get better comfort for the occupants of the buildings, commercial or residential.

So you’re absolutely right. We’re seeing the use cases come about or we’ve seen them come about accelerated through the COVID time period. Speaking of vaccines, one of the use cases we also worked on is tracking, supplies. And like you have said, imagine a world where there are billions and billions of packages and you could print a shipping label, including cellular connectivity, including management and as thin as a strip of post-it notes, right? And so absolutely right. Silver lining or otherwise it’s accelerating the innovation that’s happening in our space.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s incredible. That’s a really interesting topic that you just mentioned there actually from a logistics point of view. Logistics at the moment, you’ve really got to look at some of the big online retailers, their business has grown significantly, but as we move forward, even after this pandemic, a lot of people are going to be using home delivery services. And so, that ability to have real time tracking is something that’s going to be needed and something that people are actually going to want. And you can do that through sensors. And I’d love to see how we can get this onto a post-it note or even just spit balling it, rolling it out in terms of adhesive tape, right? And for the adhesive tape to have the tech within it. So, it’s rolled out and get compartmentalized on the box.

Hima Mukkamala:
Absolutely. I’ll send you a link to the article that we have been working with Vodafone, our sister company Kigen and Bayer on how we are able to print tracking labels, as thin as an adhesive tape. And that can go on every package and it could go on like the smallest vile that has the drug in it. And so that way you’re tracking it at such a high fidelity.

Tom White:
Wow. Yeah. I mean, I’d love to see that. Yeah, that’s fantastic. That’s a real game changer, I suppose. Isn’t it? Because making a sensor so small that you can embed it within a packaging. It’s unbelievable, it really is.

Hima Mukkamala:
It’s a combination of the sensor, but it’s also not just a sensor, but the ability to connect the sensor, over cellular networks that are available across the globe with the low power wireless networks, right? There’s a lot of Cat M1, NB-IoT cellular networks coming out. And so this one, not just being able to put a device on it, but connect the device and that can work anywhere in the world, especially in a global supply chain like today, where things are manufactured in one part of the world, tested in one part of the world, deployed to a different part of the world.

And even after deployment, they keep moving from one region to the other, right? And if you just take US as an example, the network coverage within the country itself is so varied, so you need a supplier that can track and connect these devices across multiple networks. And that’s where I think, a lot of innovation is happening and that’s the value we offer to our customers. It’s an interesting space and I joke with my wife that the number of, speaking of packages and the amount of shipping that has happened to just our home, because we don’t go shopping and it’s like everything we shop, we shop on Amazon.

How can device management be simplified?

Tom White:
I mean, yeah, exactly. And I think everyone has kind of gone that path, right? I have a close friend of mine, it’s quite senior at Amazon and we talk about the increase and that’s going to stay, that’s not going to change, right? It’s a really interesting topic about how we handle this. And then of course, we could go on for hours about drone deliveries and bits and pieces, right? But yeah, it’s interesting. One of the things that I was keen to understand from more of the Pelion perspective. So, IoT device management is a really complex process and there’s obviously a range of networks and devices acquired within this. As you look to innovate and the complexity grows, what do your customers come to you with? And what are the challenges that they’re looking to try and achieve using device management and how can you simplify that for them?

Hima Mukkamala:
I think this is a very interesting conversation because talking about all the use cases we talked about, device management whatever technical term you might use is, the fundamental part of the solution. The three main challenges that I see them coming to us, flexibility. The challenge with customers is they want to be flexible on what… Future-proofing right? In one way. What devices they use, what cloud they use, what networks they use, because that is an environment that’s changing rapidly, right? The networks are not the same, the device life-cycle is not the same. So they want to build a solution that is flexible and can move along, can improve with the next generation of devices that come along, right? So, that’s one challenge they come with. The second challenge they come to us is scale. What we have seen is a lot of customers have tried this with 10 devices in the field and they think they’ve done it.

But when someone really wants to go to the scale of IoT, to the millions of devices, even billions, going back to the use case, right? If they want to make a hundred billion vaccines, each of them need to be tracked, all of those need to be managed. And so the scale is what is a big challenge that they come to us for. And finally, more important in my mind, or most important, is security. We’ve seen a lot of IoT vulnerabilities and some of them have come up recently, and as these nodes get more connected, they become vulnerability points, right? So they want to make sure, so these are the three challenges they come to us with. And so what we enable them is, simplification, right? For us, it’s all about how do you simplify device management? We want to make sure it’s turnkey.

There has to be enough devices that support device management. So working with the ecosystem is important. We have to make sure there’s enough of edge nodes that support the deployment of analytics and the AI to parse the data and process the data. And so, the reason why we’ve seen a lot of slow down in the device management and adoption of IoT, because people are scared about putting these devices in the environment, just like how laptops became this point of vulnerability, 10 years back, 15 years back. And then a lot of management came in. And so similarly, the world of IoT is evolving to that space and solving this challenge of flexibility, scalability, and security through the device and the collective device platform, we are enabling our customers.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. I think something that you touched upon there, which is very close to my heart from my past in academic studies, is the security element of this.

Hima Mukkamala:
Yes absolutely.

Why is trustable data crucial in the growing IoT landscape?

Tom White:
Often security in this industry. And in technology in general is seen as an after event, a gold-plating exercise rather than by design. And a team, you know only too well that within a network, you’re only as strong as the weakest link. And, there’s so many stories about these cheap, IP based cameras that people have in their homes with really lapsed security that just on the network. And it’s really heartwarming to know that, that is something that’s very close to Pelion in what we’re doing as a business, is the security element of these devices, because you add the glue, everything being connected and with everything joined, the risks are phenomenal aren’t they?

Hima Mukkamala:
Yeah. And coming from an industrial world, we used to talk about if only the whole world knew about vulnerabilities and attacks that haven’t been publicized. There’s a lot of that happens. What we want to make sure is, like you’ve said, security in the enterprise world has always been, I’m going to put a layer on the top at the last minute to get the solution out, right? For IoT, security has to be by design and has to be integrated upfront, because the whole point of what we do at Pelion is enabling the data to be trust able, because we are a control plane and we enable the data to be delivered to wherever the analytics run, so that the customers can get outcome from the data. Right? They need to analyze the data, they need to see what the data means to them, but all of the outcomes don’t matter if they cannot trust the data.

I was reading the story about earthquake warning in Hawaii, and someone hacked into it and generated a false warning. And that is not good, right? So because now the data is not trust able. And so that’s just an example of where these nodes and the data from these nodes, if it cannot be trusted. So, like you said, right? You’re absolutely right. If the trust is not built into the nodes, by putting the management into the nodes early on across the life cycle, right? Not just one, you cannot have one weak node and it will create vulnerabilities across the whole solution.

What challenges will we see as IoT grows?

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a really interesting next point and a nice link into something I was going to ask you was about, if we talk about IoT in a wider context, apart from security, which is a well-publicized and something that we just touched on here, challenge for the growth of IoT. What other challenges do you envision that IoT will have as it infinitely, grows bigger? What are the other challenges that affect the growth of IoT within technology?

Hima Mukkamala:
I think first and foremost, just to reiterate right? Building trust in the solutions and so that the data is trust able and the environment is trust able. That is for sure, the biggest challenge I see that, right? And the second one that I see as… The other thing is, IoT deployments has taken too long a time, right? It cannot be a multi-year this large scale ERP like deployments. And we need to bring the time it takes to deploy the solutions much faster. And that can only be done by having enough solutions off the shelf, that are integrated from the device to the cloud, to the analytics, right? So this end to end solutions are key to making sure that IoT will scale to the level it scales. And that needs a lot of cooperation with ecosystem partners with, from the device world, from the silicon world to the networks and to the cloud and analytics players.

It’s interesting, one of our customers gave me a quote. They said, “I’m scared of sleeping in the night because I’m shipping devices that don’t have device management into the field.” Right? So, being able to solve that problem of operational visibility, because customers are managing large assets today. They’re not going to come up with a different management solution. So, finding a way to integrate operationally the management of these IoT assets, into how they manage their whole fleet or how they manage their whole assets. That’s a key challenge that we also need to solve. So, if you solve trust, security, if we solved speed of deployment, there’s friction in deployment. If you solve the operational experience and operational management and then create these end to end solutions, I think, and when we have started going down that path in the last one year, more than ever.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Hima. I think something that resonates with me quite clearly with that, is conversation I’ve had with people in the past when we talk about IoT in this exploding ecosystem and people say, “Well, where is everything? Where are these devices? Where are these solutions?” And I think the time to market is really, really important. And I think that’s really useful for our listeners to know, and to solidify that as one of the things that you’ve mentioned there, is getting this out there quickly. And not that IoT is this peripheral niche area, that people look at anymore because it really is transforming technology in general. And at one point, we may stop calling it IoT because it will just be what it is, because everything will just be connected and that is technology, and we won’t need to label it as something anymore. Do you think that’s right?

Hima Mukkamala:
Absolutely. And you’ve articulated it really well because even if I look at 2006, I started building mobile platforms. And at that time they were an outlier and you had to do something very different, in how you build mobile applications. And how do you make your website mobile ready and so on. But thinking about how we build stuff today, right? As a developer, as an engineer, mobile is integral, mobile experiences are integral to how you build everything, right? And some people actually start from mobile first. And so you are absolutely right. I think the time when you think of the outcome and IoT is, becomes a piece of it, and you don’t talk about it as this outlier, that’s the prime when you know that, “Okay, it is enabling us to solve real problems and not a technology sort of talk.”

Where will we see IoT evolve in the future?

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. I think you cut it greatly there. When you don’t call it something, that’s when you know it’s there, right? Just on that note. And one of the last things that I wanted to ask you today Hima, and I don’t expect you to reveal any secrets of the business and what have you, but I know everyone’s going to be really excited just to know about what your predictions are really for the future. This is something that I always ask everyone, Where can this take us? Where can it go? Are there limitations, but what do you see happening over the next five years?

Hima Mukkamala:
I think we talked through and I would always like to use, use cases to talk about what I see happening. We talked about the labels, smart labels, and that’s just one application of what I predict as technologies like USIM and ISIM, where you are enabling technologies or connectivity to be available globally, locally. So today there’s a lot of roaming in the cellular networks. As the connectivity is built into the silicon, the form factor goes much smaller, power consumption is much smaller. And then collectivity is not an afterthought, right? Connectivity is built into the devices and they work on cellular networks, low power and you’re able to manage those, like you manage the rest of your devices so that, I see as a big trend, I will see more and more of that. And our sister company Kigen works along with us to deliver those technology. The second trend I see is the edge models, moving to edge applications, to edge app store.

I think that trend is going to get bigger and bigger. We’re working with customers already. What I predict happened is this edge models like the camera, more AI algorithms are deployed in your camera right? Today, they’re static, they’ll get more and more real time. Because there’s a continuous monitoring between the edge and the cloud, and now you will able to deploy these models in a much more real time. So, we’re working with some exciting use cases with our customers, so that our experiences, as everyday humans get better and better because there’s more real-time data.
The third one I see is we talked about this right? Security, we’ve invested a lot in security in the enterprise, where if you take public key security, cryptography and so on, I see that strong security getting more and more into IoT nodes and doing the end to end solution. So, I would see those three as the big trends. I’m more of trends that enable use cases, then research trends. And so, I see these in real use cases. I see those getting into large scale deployments in the next two to five years. Although some of them have already started now.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. That’s really insightful. And I think those three cornerstones there, about the applications of edge and what that has along with security and also the battery. So for me, battery technology is a phenomenally interesting subjects when you deal with a lot of countries looking to go into, to zero emissions and having targets around that. And I think sometimes we, when we talk about infrastructure, we talk about the limitations of the infrastructure and were really in a race aren’t we?

So you have the manufacturers producing cars. And if we look at Porsche’s Taycan, for instance, it’s certainly in the UK, the infrastructure currently isn’t there to support the charge of that. And when that comes back to an IoT device, it’s how we can put something in the device and not touch it for 10 years or longer, right? Because that is really the limitation because some of these devices with cellular connectivity, depending on when they’re actually functioning and talking to another device, how long can that last? And that is a really real limitation. So, it’d be phenomenal to see what happens in the future with that, because I think it has so many different applications for everyone in terms of enrichment of peoples lives as well.

Hima Mukkamala:
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I think that’s why I take that as the biggest prediction, or I think the outcome that we can generate working closely with our cellular partners, our Silicon partners, to push a lot of the connectivity and it fits into our ARM’s history of how they enabled more compute and more analytics at the Silicon level. And now the next steps that go into the… We talked about how do you stop talking about things and it all becomes more natural to how we do it. Connectivity, I know we’ll go down the same way where it’s built into the Silicon and that way it’s available for you at low power and low cost and low form factor. Right? Because a lot of these devices sizes is a constraint, right? We talked about, the tape that goes right? And so it’s got to get that small.

Tom White:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Hima, I am so pleased that you have come on to the show. Honestly, it was something that I was really looking forward to, and I know we could talk for ages, but I really thank you for coming on the show. It’s been so insightful and we wish you the best of luck in your position at Pelion and all of the growth that your company is going to have.

Hima Mukkamala:
Tom really appreciate the time. Yeah, like you’ve said, this is a topic that’s dear to my heart. I’m sure we’ll talk more with you, millions of subscribers and me, millions of customers.

Tom White:
I hope, I hope. Thank you so much.

Hima Mukkamala:
Thanks. Have a good day Tom.

Tom White:
You too.

The IoT Podcast Team

The IoT Podcast is powered by Paratus People, a leading organisation in IoT Talent Solutions.

Innovation is at the heart of IoT, it is our passion to explore and learn more about this fast paced and transforming sector.

Connect & Get Involved

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.
Subscribe to our newsletter to be amongst the first to find out exclusive information about The IoT Podcast.

We use Sendinblue as our marketing platform. By Clicking below to submit this form, you acknowledge that the information you provided will be transferred to Sendinblue for processing in accordance with their href="https://www.sendinblue.com/legal/termsofuse/">terms of use